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How to Protect Yourself From Runner’s Knee

What is runner’s knee?

Runner’s knee (aka chondromalacia patellae or patellofemoral pain syndrome) can be classified as an overuse disorder. Often, it refers to when there is a dull pain associated with the front side of the knee, slightly above or below the kneecap. 

Patellofemoral pain is very common and 25% of the general population has experienced some form of it. As a result, sports medicine practitioners often have experience treating runner's knee.


What causes runner’s knee? 

As stated before, although commonly found in runners (40% of running injuries are related to the knee!), runner’s knee can also happen to anyone who exerts repeated stress on the knee joint. This can include anyone who is regularly jumping, walking, skiing, biking or playing some form of recreational sport.

These stresses can be because of: 

  • Structural defect in the knee (flat feet or high knee cap)
  • A certain way of walking or running
  • Weak thigh muscles
  • Excessive training or overuse
  • Knee injury
  • Tight Achilles tendons
  • Tight hamstrings
  • Incorrect shoes

Interestingly, women are more likely than men to experience runner’s knee. This is because the angle of a woman’s thigh bone is higher than that of a man, allowing it to exert much more pressure on the knee.


Symptoms of runner’s knee

The main symptom of runner’s knee is pain around the knee cap. You may feel pain when walking, resting, running or playing sports. Other common symptoms include:

  • Stiffness in the knee after sitting for a long period
  • Pain while squatting or climbing stairs
  • Rubbing or clicking sound around the knee when you straighten or bend it
  • Tenderness around the knee area if you push against the kneecap

Sports medicine help

How should you protect your knees?

There are preventative ways to protect your knees and reduce your risk of developing a runner’s knee. Here are 4 ways: 


#1. Stretching

Stretching exercises help improve the flexibility of your leg, whilst protecting the knee. They can help increase blood flow, decrease stiffness and enhance the movement of your joints. This can also delay the onset of muscle cramps and soreness. If you stretch before doing any strenuous exercise, you can reduce your chances of injury.

To get started, you should practice dynamic stretches (such as jogging and cycling) to warm up the area before any athletic activity and static stretching (holding a stretch for 30 - 60 seconds) to strengthen the muscles. 


#2. Using the right shoes

While it sounds obvious, exercising with the right equipment drastically reduces your injury chances.

If you’re a runner, this means wearing the correct shoes that provide proper cushioning and shock absorption. Not only will they be more comfortable to exercise in, but your chances of developing runner’s knee and facing knee sprains will also be lowered. 


#3. Following the proper form and technique when running

Besides using the right equipment, you should also exercise with the right form and technique. When running, keeping a tight core and avoiding leaning too far forward or backwards is best. Keeping your knees bent will also help ease the shock to the area.

A good cool down after your run will also help your body adjust post-workout. Try walking or jogging after your run to recover. Without a proper warm-up and cool-down, you’re more likely to cause pain to certain areas. 


#4. Staying fit and healthy

Another cause of runner’s knee that we haven’t mentioned is obesity.

Obesity can contribute to the likelihood of injury as the extra weight on your body puts more pressure on your knees, making it more vulnerable to injury. Maintaining an optimal weight can, therefore, reduce your chances of developing runner’s knee. You can do this by practising moderate-intensity exercises and maintaining a well-balanced diet. 


When should you consult a doctor?

If the pain in your knee doesn’t subside after a few weeks or it starts to interfere with your daily activities drastically, you should consult a doctor as soon as possible to prevent potential complications. Your doctor will conduct a physical examination and perform blood tests, X-rays and MRIs (dependant case-by-case) to diagnose runner’s knee. 


What are the treatment methods available?

Most often, runner’s knee can be treated without surgery. One of the best home remedies you can practice is the RICE method to speed up your recovery. The steps of RICE include:

  • Rest to avoid stress and pressure on the knee
  • Ice to reduce pain and swelling (best if you ice the knee area after a run)
  • Compression to restrict the swelling (you can use a compression band around the area)
  • Elevation to prevent further swelling

In addition to the RICE method, your doctor may recommend painkillers depending on your situation. Knee pain exercises may also be recommended to help strengthen your knee. 


How OT&P can help

Runner’s knee can be easily prevented and minimised with the right precautions, equipment and recovery methods. Running can be a great form of exercise when done properly to improve your health & wellness – but always listen to your body and don’t overwork yourself. More often than not, overworking your body can lead to more harm than good. 

If runner’s knee is still troubling you even if you’re taking precautions and carrying out the treatment methods listed above – please seek medical advice. You can make an appointment with us at OT&P Healthcare; we have a range of specialists on hand to help you prevent injuries, exercise with the correct form and heal from the pain.

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Topics: Health & Wellness, Fitness & Active Health

OT&P Healthcare

OT&P Healthcare

OT&P Healthcare is a Premium Private Healthcare Practice in Hong Kong. Our priority is to help individuals to enhance and optimise their health by providing easy access to a wide range of excellent practitioners and information, supported by management systems and technology that ensure quality of service and value. Our Mission is to provide pre-eminent private healthcare in Hong Kong. We aim to be the best in class fully integrated healthcare service, providing a circle of care for all our patients' needs.